Category Archives for "Miscellaneous"

My mom

My mom used to leave my brother and me home alone, living in squalor with nothing to eat and nothing to do except play with the knives and guns strewn about the house and in case we got bored, she’d leave us cryptic clues that would lead us on a scavenger hunt to a butt load of ammunition and a bottle of whiskey and, if we were lucky enough, a pack of low tar cigarettes.

I’m just messing with you. My mom reads this blog and I just wanted to give her a good old fashioned heart palpitation to start her day with a whiz bang. I know she’ll appreciate it once her blood pressure meds kick in because it means she now has a reason to call and chastise me and, in essence, get up this morning.

Hi Mom! (((waving furiously)))

She actually did leave us home alone while she was at work but we were teenagers and that just doesn’t have the same dramatic pull, does it? Anyway, she’d call in periodically to check on us and it didn’t matter if she had just called five minutes previously, she would always, without fail, respond the same way every time we answered the phone and it wasn’t with “Hello, it’s your mother” or “Hi, it’s Mom” or “Whatever you’re doing, stop it right now.” No, immediately upon hearing our voice, she would ask “Oh, are you home?” because the fact that we actually answered the phone in the first place was insufficient evidence. We should have just continued in a monotone voice advising her that no one was home to take her call at the moment but if she left her name and number, someone was sure to get back to her as soon as possible. That would have really freaked her out. Or, she would have left a message. It’s a toss up.

If someone threw Maude and Louise “Wheezy” Jefferson in a blender, it would spit out my mother but with better fashion sense. She has the gray hair and posture of Maude and the freakishly high arched eyebrow of Wheezy and a delightful combination of their “screw you” attitudes. She can still channel them both by raising that eyebrow and eyeballing you with an EAT YOUR TONGUE, WITHER AND DIE SOMEWHERE stare until you either pee your pants or just drop dead on the spot. And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about because you weren’t lucky enough to experience 1970’s television – nevermind. Isn’t it time for your nap?

When I was younger, my mother and I did not get along. And I bet that’s pretty common with a lot of mothers and daughters, although I wouldn’t know first hand as a mom myself because my daughters and I get along famously. I have never been called THE WORST MOTHER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET and I do not have the awesome ability to suck the fun out of everything. I’m also the long lost identical twin of Halle Berry. Go head, look it up. I’ll wait.

So no, my mother and I did not get along very well and this lasted for about 21 years and then something happened and we started getting along. Coincidentally, this happened right around the time I wasn’t living at home anymore and to this day, I firmly believe that in general, the farther apart we are from each other physically, the better we get along socially. If I lived here and she lived in Australia, we’d be joined at the hip, figuratively, and my hips are up for the job, literally. As it is, we live 800 miles apart and we have great long distance phone conversations and when we see each other on visits, we actually enjoy each other’s company. We still fight occasionally but nothing worth a front row seat and a $7.50 box of popcorn. Except for that verbal smackdown last year at my aunt’s house. We were so busy yelling, flailing around and exchanging caustic glares that we didn’t even notice when everyone snuck back into the room, having never been aware that they had left it to begin with. That one was totally worth a $12.50 jumbo popcorn. Just ask Nate. I think he bought two of them and a bag of nuts.

Every time Mom and I are in a car together, regardless of who is driving, we become so engrossed in our conversation that we completely forget where we are going. Years ago we were on our way to pick up my brother from SUNY Cortland and we were half way to Buffalo before we realized that we should have been half way to Albany. Good thing we realized it when we did because otherwise, we’d be waiting in Niagara Falls wondering where the hell he could be, why the hell was he late and holy shit, when did Cortland get falls like these?

My mother really shines in crisis situations. She may cause me to gnash my teeth upon occasion but when the going gets tough, you want my mom on speed dial. She does not fret, she does not stress, she does not freak out, she does not rip out her hair in chunks, break out in a rash, hyperventilate, drown in panic sweat, double over from sudden migraine onset and yell to Nate to catch her before she falls flat on her face and breaks her neck, like some other people who shall remain nameless.

She held down the fort when my dad had bypass surgery and heart valve replacement surgery, she took care of my aunt after her heart valve replacement surgery, and she did not feed into my paranoia about having something pig-related inserted into my own body sometime down the road. She stayed with me when I had both of my daughters, she got up in the middle of the night to help me with feedings, she ducked for cover when I threw a hairbrush in the midst of hormone-induced meltdown while dealing with my first and only lice encounter. She came up to be with me when my first husband (doesn’t that make me sound like some wickedly drop dead gorgeous chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out kind of woman? With no cellulite?) decided to leave for greener pastures (and doesn’t that make me sound like a cow?) which left me desolate, depressed and wasted pile of air. She allowed me a couple of days to wallow in self pity before telling me to get over myself because I simply did not have the luxury to fall apart as I had a three year old daughter counting on me. My mother is always good for a reality check and I really don’t know if I could have gotten through that time without her.

God help me, but my mother just recently got a cell phone. This is the same woman who cannot scroll on the computer, cannot find the On button on any digital camera and has been watching the same channel on her kitchen television for the last five years because she does not know how to change it. But she was excited at the prospect of being able to call anyone at anytime and she was absolutely ecstatic that she could now call me long distance and, thanks to Verizon’s wireless network, not pay anything to subtly tell me how to run my life. She programmed my cell phone number and my land line into her phone and now every time she calls my cell phone, she gets my land line and vice versa and this is a constant source of irritation for her and something akin to medieval torture for me.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Me: Hi Mom.

Mom: Oh, are you’re home?

Me: I’m not home right now to take your call, but if you leave your name and number at the beep, I’ll return your call as soon as I can.


Me: Get it, Mom? It’s a joke. Mom? Are you there?

Mom: I was waiting for the beep.

Me (big sigh): Nevermind.

Mom: I thought it was strange that you have an answering machine on your cell phone.

Me: Actually, it’s called voice mail these days but it doesn’t matter, since you called me on my land line.

Mom: No, I didn’t. I called your cell phone.

Me: No, I’m pretty sure you called me on my land line since my cordless phone is currently pressed to my ear and I’m talking to you with it.

Mom: GOD – DAMN – IT. I swear to you I dialed your cell phone. Hang up, I’ll call you again.

Ring. Ring.

Me: Land line again.



Me: Land line.

Mom: SHIT-ON-A-STICK. What is going on?

Me: I don’t know. You must have programmed your phone wrong.

Mom: No, I did not. I AM NOT AN IDIOT. Hang up.

Lather, rinse, repeat over and over ad nauseam.

Mom: I HATE this thing. It’s got to be defective. I’m going back to the store and have them fix it. Damn it to hell and back. Do you know how many times I’ve been there already? That nice young man there is so helpful. I’m like his grandmother, did you know that?

Me: No, that is definitely news to me.

Mom: Well, I am.

Me: What color is the sky in your world, Mom?

Mom: Never you mind. I’m going to call when I get back and you better answer on your cell phone.

Me: I will if you call me on it.

I’d try to argue with her, but how do you argue with a woman who insists on sneaking a cigarette in the morning every now and then under the guise it helps her with her bowel movements?

Regardless, she’s a pretty great woman. She threw caution to the wind, dropped everything and went on a spur of the moment trip with Zoe and me to Disney World eleven years ago and suffered through a three hour time-share seminar in exchange for discounted tickets to MGM Studios. She spent ten hours at Magic Kingdom and helped me literally drag a sleeping Zoe out of the park at closing time because some miscreant stole our stroller. Who steals a stroller from a three year old, leaving her stranded with a senior citizen with a bum hip and a thirty year old woman with arm strength equivalent to that of Gumby? A piece of shit miscreant, that’s who, may he/she rot in Disney hell.

She stood up for me when I married Nate, she cried when Nate gave Zoe a beautiful cross during the ceremony, she kisses him first when we visit and she constantly reminds me that I better keep him happy because she’s likes having him around.

She loses about an inch of height a year and she’s a walking dictionary and encyclopedia and the best Scrabble player I have ever known and just once, I wish she’d let me win and not let me know that she let me win.

She’s the one I call when I’m happy, sad or just need to scream at the unfairness of it all and she knows exactly what I’m talking about right there. She’s my go-to person for recipes and medical advice and world history facts.

I am the woman I am today because of the woman she has been for 77 years.

Hey mom … call me. My cell phone is charged and I just found the cordless under the couch, so roll the dice and dial my number and we’ll bet on which one rings first.

Ten rules of the all-mighty calendar

This is our family calendar.

It’s one of those 15″ by 12″ jobs that came with a bulletin board and a pen holder. We’ve been using this model for years now and I’m still pretty happy with it. I had great plans for this calendar when we bought our original one years ago and it held a prominent position on our old white refrigerator letting us see at a glance what everyone would be up to for the next month.

But the bulletin board became a breeding ground for a plethora of crap which constantly fell to the ground when the one remaining pushpin became incapable of holding up fifty times its own weight. Although the pen holder remained sturdy, the pen itself went missing approximately 7 seconds after we hung that baby up and since it’s next to impossible to keep a pen that actually works somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen, we eventually bagged the entire bulletin board ensemble. Now we keep just the calendar on top of the fridge which makes Nate very happy as he is not a calendar-on-the-fridge kind of guy, especially since we went the route of stainless steel last year. Stainless steel is not meant to be contaminated by a calendar in Nate’s world … it messes with his neatness obsession and causes him to twitch.

I tried really hard to be hip by using a day planner at one time. I so wanted to be one of those cool moms who whip out a black and pink toil covered planner and schedule dentist visits, teacher conferences and play dates neatly within ½ inch borders in perfect penmanship. You should see our girl scout leader’s planner. That thing is truly a work of art and I am mesmerized every time she opens it up. I used to have perfect penmanship. I also used to have a waist. I miss those days.

A planner just wasn’t in the cards for me because there simply wasn’t enough room in one of those things to write down, cross out, write down again, cross out again, scribble in, underline, circle and arrow as much as is required by this family. So we went the mongo sized route. And even if it is big and doesn’t fit in my purse, it’s still portable, much to my eldest daughter’s acute embarrassment. I held it like a suitcase and took it with me to her physical therapy appointment the other week and heaved it up onto the receptionists’ desk to schedule the next appointment. My daughter stepped far away from me and became completely engrossed in a poster of a foot, while the receptionist just stared, transfixed by the calendar covering her counter. It is a sight to behold.

In order to maintain my sanity, I was forced to establish ground rules for the calendar early on. Everyone in this house knows the rules. And may God have mercy on your worthless soul if you break one.

RULE #1: The calendar is the most sacred object in this house. It must not be defiled by melted chocolate or doodles or math problems or vocabulary words or wet drinks or be used as scratch paper to see if the pen you found under the couch still works. And while I’m grateful you made the effort to not only answer the phone but to take a message, haphazardly scribbling “Jen called” on April 4 when it’s currently June is not helpful.

RULE #2: I am the only one allowed to write on the calendar. Otherwise, we have incidents like this:

Apparently Zoe is a bit concerned that we will forget her birthday, even though her birthday is a celebrated event that lasts approximately three weeks, spans two counties and is reported on by CNN. There is no need to violate the calendar like this, especially when I fill in all birthdays immediately upon purchasing the calendar every year. And if that is not enough, it is physically impossible for me to forget something that is chanted incessantly in my ear for months on end. I HEAR YOU. Now, go away and leave me alone.

RULE #3: If it’s not on the calendar, you did not tell me about it, I know nothing about it and therefore, it is not happening. THIS RULE IS STRICTLY ENFORCED, NO EXCEPTIONS. VIOLATORS WILL BE PUT TO THE CURB AND SOLD FOR A QUARTER. Do not try to weasel your way out of it by telling me I forgot to write something down. I do not forget to write things down, unless you count Weight Watchers points and then, who asked you?

RULE #4: Do not under any circumstances tell me of any event, happening, outing, appointment, etc., during Lost. Things told to me during this time never reach my ears and will be deemed never to have been uttered in the first place. While I am trying in vain to wrap my head around the concept of time travel and trying to figure out why Ben’s beaten and battered face has not completely fallen off, I do not need you blathering on about a skating party. I do not hear you.

RULE #5: Just because you are tall, dark and handsome and bring in the bacon and fry it up in the pan and … never mind. Just because you are the man of the house does not mean that you are exempt from these rules. You are not. So do not try to bamboozle me with a foot rub while you explain that by some freak accident, the calendar does not show that you have a golf outing the next day when both girls have to be in two different places in two different time zones at the same time. Time travel and I don’t get along – see Rule #4. So stop with the foot rub. It’s not going to work. It’s not. It’s not. It’s … oh yeah, right there. Sigh.

RULE #6: When you are done looking at the calendar, place it gently on the top of the fridge. Do not fling it will nilly on top of the fridge, causing it to hit the back wall and slide down into no-man’s land. I simply do not have it in me to listen to your father’s wails of pain from the hernia he will undoubtedly believe he has from moving the fridge. And I also don’t appreciate having to dust off all the God-knows-what that will inevitably be covering the calendar upon its rescue. I don’t do dust, or haven’t you figured that out by now?

RULE #7: If the calendar is not on top of the fridge, it better be in either my hands or in the hands of someone standing immediately next to the fridge. It better not be in the washing machine, under the coffee table, in the garage, on the driveway or used as teacher’s art pad in Helena’s School for Gifted Children. Mommy cannot be held responsible for what happens when she is forced to deal with a calendar that is missing in action. This rule is established for the good of the entire household because who’s going to cook dinner while Mommy is incapacitated in the hospital from an exploded head?

RULE #8: I will only write as many things as I can fit in the space allotted for that day so all activities proposed are on a first come, first serve basis. I cannot fit a soccer game, softball game, band concert, awards ceremony, book fair, swimming and fundraiser on Wednesday and even if I could, I wouldn’t because that would be lunacy and I stopped doing lunacy last week. There will be no arguing about this BECAUSE I SAID SO.

RULE #9: This list stays attached to the calendar at all times. If you have this list but not the calendar, or vice versa, that is a problem that requires your immediate attention. Figure out a remedy before I find out about it and yelling WHO’S GOT THE CALENDAR is not a solution as I might hear you and become suspicious.

RULE #10: Do not ask me anything unless you have checked the calendar. This works like the “shortest distance between two points is a straight line” theory. We can save a whole lot of time in this family if you just follow this rule. See below:

YOU: Can …

ME: Are you asking me something?

YOU: Ummm, yes?

ME: Did you check the calendar?

YOU: Ummm, no?

ME: Then why are you talking to me?

YOU: But …

ME: No buts. You know the rule.

YOU: Is …

ME: Am I speaking Braille? I already told you. Go check the calendar.

YOU (one minute later): OK, I checked it.

ME: Now what did you want to ask me?

YOU: Can you help me with my math?

ME: When?

YOU: After dinner?

ME: And what does the calendar say for tonight?

YOU: It says “go grocery shopping.” There’s a picture scribbled next to it … I think it’s someone crying.

ME: Have a seat, we’ve got all the time in the world.

Chamberlain Smackdown

I’m feeling reasonably intelligent this morning so I think I might balance our checkbook today. This is always an exciting time in the Chamberlain household because, as Forrest Gump so aptly put it, you never know what you’re gonna get.

I always follow the same routine before I do this task. I eat a full breakfast, take a shower, clean up the kitchen, take a deep, long breath and then face my calm, serene self in the mirror. I tell myself I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dammit, people like me. I take the time to memorize my features so that I can recognize my own self three hours later when I have been transformed into a raving, seething, psychotic lunatic who would eat her own young if it meant the last entry in our checkbook would read BALANCED, THANK YOU GOD.

Our statements:

You may have noticed that there are four months worth here. That’s because I can find the courage to complete this task only three times a year and that’s because I’m married to a tall, dark, handsome man who has THE most creative way with numbers you have ever seen. In my previous life, I handled all the household finances, wrote every entry in the checkbook, balanced it every month to the penny and believe you me, I would scour the earth to find a penny that dared go AWOL on my watch. But now? Nate is in charge of the entries and everything I ever learned about addition and subtraction has become obsolete because nowadays there’s math going on in our checkbook that hasn’t even been invented yet. But that’s ok, because Nate has a system. I have spent the last eleven years trying to understand this system with no success. But I don’t give up easily and three times a year, I try my hand at it again.

My tools:

I don’t bother using paper in my adding machine. I don’t think they make rolls big enough for the numerical gymnastics that are about to happen. I keep the phone handy as it is inevitable that I will be calling Nate periodically throughout the day to yell questions such as WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? and WHY DON’T YOU JUST HIT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH THE WEED WHACKER AND BE DONE WITH IT ALREADY? To which he will calmly respond with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “Huh.” Then I will cry. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The red pen is crucial. Nate’s entries in the checkbook are in blue. Mine are in red. It’s kind of like a miniature version of the electoral smart board on CNN but without Wolf and the best political team on television.

I won’t cross out entries. I won’t scribble over numbers, I won’t have arrows pointing this way and that. That is entirely too confusing and makes our checkbook messy. I don’t do messy. Instead, I will simply use the red pen to make brand new entries explaining why the preceding twenty entries in blue are terribly, horribly wrong. That way, when Nate gets home, I can simply place the checkbook in front of him and he will see all the red and immediately know everything he ever wanted about my day. This negates the need for Nate to actually ask me about my day and this, in turn, relieves any need on my part to actually speak and that ultimately serves to protect Nate from any desire I may have to tackle him to the floor and choke him with his very own tongue. We’re like a well oiled machine that way.

The balancing of our checkbook is, at its core, a battle of wits between Nate and me and even though I’d like to consider myself better armed, make no mistake about it … I want Nate to win. I really do because in this instance and this instance only, it makes my life so much easier. Using the red pen means I’m going to have to think and think hard and I’m not happy when I have to think hard, so I am all about the blue. GO BLUE GO.

So this morning, I’ll prepare myself for battle, take one last look at myself in the mirror, shout BRING IT ON, BABY to no one in particular and the blue vs. red smackdown will begin.

History has proven time and time again that the smackdown will be over in about three hours. Team Blue will have been decimated and Team Red, specifically ME, will have lost approximately two pounds of weight in the form of stress sweat, together with the ability to form a coherent sentence. And the carnage … oh, the carnage.

WARNING: the following contains graphic material and may not be suitable to viewers of the anal, obsessive-compulsive, my-checkbook-balances-every-single-month-and-I-always-wear-matching-socks persuasion:

Wow. That’s a lot of red. Kind of awesome in a psychotic-psychedelic sort of way. See all of those “should have”, “mistake on”, “never recorded” and “duplicate” notations all over the place? Those are my routine moves – no biggies.

My favorite strategy, my absolute favorite one, the one that just makes me quiver in ecstasy is the “adjustment to records.” That’s my big gun, so to speak … the one I use only as a last resort, after I have attempted every mathematical combination of numbers humanly possible, ransacked our office in search of statements from the last year to verify running totals, called Nate 327 times for clarifications, eaten an entire Tony’s pizza, bitten my nails until they’ve bled and screamed at God to JUST TAKE ME NOW.

“Adjustment to records” is me giving up before I become a puddle on the floor, gasp my last breath and lose consciousness. As a rule, I try not to employ this tactic unless and until I have banged my head repeatedly against this:

So here I am this morning, preparing for our next battle. I just love the smell of potential nervous breakdown in the morning.

If I’m not back in two days, send out a call for help. Nate will need it.

Twenty Things Every Mom Needs to Know

Last year, I had a layout published in which I dispensed some parenting advice that I had gleaned over my years as a mom. I’ve managed to keep my kids alive up to now so I think all of that advice still has merit and in my 4.3 minutes of allotted down time per day, I’ve gradually added to my arsenal. My goal is to have this mounted on a neon green 10′ x 10′ canvas and hang one in each of my daughters’ family rooms after they have children of their own. At the bottom, it will have a small, bronze plaque engraved with “I TOLD YOU SO. LOVE, MOM”

  1. My philosophy on parenting can best be described as a combination of “flying by the seat of my pants” and “baptism by fire” with a healthy dose of “winging it” thrown in for good measure.
  2. Save the $12.95 plus shipping/handling. No book is going to fully prepare you for the wonder that is projectile vomiting. You have to experience it first hand to truly appreciate all of its nuances.
  3. Television has the power to suck the ability to form a coherent thought right out of a child. Use this time wisely.
  4. Remember, there is no law that requires you to have fifteen of your daughter’s closest friends sleep over in your living room on her birthday and feed them all breakfast the next morning and no amount of hissy fits changes that fact.
  5. There is a direct correlation between raising a pre-teen daughter and the deterioration of cerebral function at warp speed. Who are you again?
  6. It’s one week before summer and your six year old insists on riding her bike into the road. What do you do? If your answer is to restrict her to your driveway and explain that you are simply trying to keep her safe and alive to enjoy the summer and, with any luck, her next birthday – good for you! Just be prepared for her to promptly fall off her bike in the driveway and suffer a spiral fracture of her lift tibia from ankle to knee, resulting in the summer being pretty much a bust. When she breaks her arm almost exactly one year later under identical circumstances, don’t say I didn’t warn you and I won’t say I told you so.
  7. The laws of physics simply don’t allow for seven friends to sit next to the birthday girl in a 2000 Honda Accord. It’ll be ugly but hey, you can’t fight the science.
  8. Any teacher worth his/her salt expects any mom worth her salt to negotiate the terms under which she will chaperone her kindergartner’s class field trip to the local zoo. As a mom and fellow human being, I encourage you to think of your own safety as it’s you against one hundred hot, sweaty little miscreants who haven’t eaten anything in three hours and who are demanding to pet the gorillas. Insist on a three foot perimeter “safe zone” protecting you from used tissue, chewed gum, sticky hands and various bodily fluids and gases. Bullhorns are a necessity, not a luxury. So is Xanax. If you feel your sanity is in jeopardy at any time, run far far away. If riding on a school bus is required, get the appropriate shots and demand combat pay. Make sure your affairs are in order. Just sayin’.
  9. When your five year old suffers a partially severed ear, requiring twenty stitches by a plastic surgeon in the ER and then asks if the mile of pink and purple bandaging around her head looks like “fashion,” just nod your head “yes” and try to ignore your clammy skin, greenish pallor, impending nausea, heart palpitations and acute dizziness. No one likes a drama queen.
  10. If you want your children to be able to function in the real world, then you better teach them how real time works. “Just a minute” does not mean sixty seconds, it means “whenever the hell Mommy feels like it.” So shut up already about the big hand and the little hand because you’re ruining it for the rest of us.
  11. In a perfect world, your pediatrician’s office has self-sterilizing toys, snack machines and a five minute maximum waiting time. But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Put your game face on and pack a bag.
  12. The first time you channel your mother won’t be your last.
  13. I can’t lie to you. There is no general consensus as to the length of a “stage.” It can last anywhere from ten minutes to ten years. Yes, it sucks. But at least you know.
  14. Barbie is the Devil Incarnate and Polly Pockets are her spawn.
  15. Taking a daily shower and separating dirty socks and underwear from dirty jeans before they hit the laundry basket is not considered child abuse. Neither is requiring them to actually hit the laundry basket.
  16. “I will” when uttered by a child actually means “I won’t until you ask me 83 more times.”
  17. Battling lice can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am so not kidding.
  18. Don’t sign your daughter up for girl scouts unless you are willing to sleep in some pretty icky places and take my word for it … no amount of Thin Mints is going to make you feel better about spending the night on the floor of an aquarium directly underneath the kid-friendly a/k/a no-walls-separating-you-from-them crab exhibit. Do I have to draw you a picture?
  19. The words “we’ll see” are almighty powerful and can mean yes,” “no,” “maybe,” “not a shot in hell” and/or “over my dead body,” depending on the circumstances. Use them sparingly and they’ll serve you well.
  20. If you think you won’t ever bribe, yell, or swear at your kids, or use the phrase “because I said so” … good luck with that. You’re on your own.
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